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"They put Odud’s body in a box, and shipped it back to his family." Lynn Lee, who is in Dhaka.

The short, hopeful life of Odud Sayed Ahammed

TOC would like to specially thank Ms Lynn Lee for allowing us to publish the following story.

Lynn Lee / Dhaka, Bangladesh

Odud Sayed Ahammed was a hopeful man. So hopeful, he gave his one piece of land to his neighbour, so the neighbour could go find him a job in Singapore. A year passed, and there was no job. The neighbour said, “It’s getting more expensive to secure work in Singapore. Give me another 100,000 takas, and I’ll be able to do something.”

Odud thought hard about it. His neighbour had told him stories about Singapore - that magical place where you could make up to 50,000 takas in a single month. With a bit of luck, and plenty of hard work, Odud thought he’d be able to earn enough money to cover his investment and eventually buy back that piece of land. So he took out a loan for 100,000 takas and handed the cash to his neighbour.

This time, the neighbour made good on his promise. Odud left for Singapore early last year. Several weeks later, he was sent home to his wife and kids – in a coffin. His death certificate says he had collapsed behind a bus-stop along Boon Lay Way. Cause of death: pneumonia. A friend who was with him has a slightly different story. He says Odud died of diarrhoea.

This is Odud’s wife, Maloti. She could barely stop crying long enough to tell us her story. She had said goodbye to her husband, fully expecting him to come home a rich man. He’s dead. She’s destitute. Her two older kids live in an orphanage. Odud’s Singaporean employer didn’t bother with an explanation, let alone any compensation.

This is Odud’s grave. It lies just a short distance from the land he gave away. Maloti cries every time she sees it. 

Was Odud’s death preventable? No one knows. Odud worked for a company called Ree Engineering. Were they negligent? We do not know. Do they owe Maloti some kind of an explanation, if not compensation? Definitely.

What did they do instead? They put Odud’s body in a box, and shipped it back to his family, along with an embalming certificate, a death certificate and a document from the National Environment Agency with the heading:

"PERMISSION TO EXPORT A COFFIN CONTAINING A CORPSE."

Because you know, Singaporean employers are world class, that way. No condolence note. No explanations. Nothing.

Nothing to show for a man, whose biggest mistake, was to hope.

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If you would like to make a donation to the family of Odud, please contact TWC2. The cheque should be made out to "Transient Workers Count Too" and indicate at the back of the cheque that it is for the family of Odud.

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